A distribution list is a group of e-mail addresses, usually grouped under a single e-mail address. When you send to a distribution list, you're really sending to everyone whose address is included in the list. It's much easier than picking 30 different addresses from the Address Book.
Outlook 2000 and Later Distribution Lists
Outlook 2000 and later versions allow you to create distribution lists in any Contacts folder, including a folder in Public Folders, by clicking the drop-down arrow next to the New button. The members of these DLs can include both existing entries from any address list and entries created only inside the particular DL.
When you send to a Contacts folder DL, the To field on received messages shows the individual addresses of all members of the list. If you want to hide the contents of the list, put the name of the DL in the the Bcc field (View | Bcc).
If you open the DL, you can use the Update button to update the addresses in the DL if the original contact or Global Address List addresses have changed.
DLs in Exchange Server mailbox or Public Folders contacts folders are limited to about 128 entries, but those entries can include other DLs.
Outlook 2003 allows you to expand the DL and see all members in the To box before sending the message. See Description and Considerations When You Use the Expand List Feature in Outlook 2003
- To create an Outlook 2000 or 2002 distribution list from a category in the Contacts folder
- Extract The Members Of An Outlook Distribution List To A Word Document (code sample)
Global Address List DLs
Distribution lists in the Exchange Server GAL are created with the Exchange Administrator program. You can't create them with the Outlook or Exchange client.
The administrator can grant access permission to one or more users to maintain the DL; such maintenance is done by opening the DL from the Outlook or Exchange Address Book. However, you can add only addresses that are already in the GAL. This means that it is practical for a user to maintain only lists of internal recipients; each external recipient would have to be added first to the GAL by the administrator.
When you send to a GAL DL, the To field shows only the name of the distribution list, not the distribution list member addresses. If you double-click the DL address in the To field, you will be able to see the membership of the list, if the administrator has not hidden it.
Exchange Server mailing list applications provide another way to maintain distribution lists in the GAL.
Personal Address Book DLs
In the Exchange client, Windows Messaging, Outlook 97 and Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000 in Corporate/Workgroup mode, you can create a Personal Distribution List (PDL) in the Personal Address Book. List members can be existing entries in any other address list or entries created only in the PDL.
When you send to a PDL, the To field on received messages shows the individual addresses of all members of the list. If you want to hide the contents of the list, put the name of the PDL in the the Bcc field (View | Bcc).
The major limitation to PDLs in the PAB is that, if an address changes in the GAL or Contacts, that change does not propagate to the PDL. Therefore, maintaining a large PDL can be a big chore.
Outlook 98 (IMO) Contact Groups
Outlook 98 in Internet Only Mode allows you to create distribution lists called "groups" through the Address Book. Choose Tools | Address Book, then click the New Group button. See OL98 (IMO): How to Set Up and Use an E-mail Group (MSKB).
This feature is not available to Outlook 98 in Corporate/Workgroup mode (see next topic).
Using Categories for DLs
The Microsoft Outlook Contacts folder cannot contain distribution lists in the same way as the Personal Address Book. (See Why does Outlook have both Contacts and the Personal Address Book?.)
While you can keep the PAB installed in your profile and maintain personal distribution lists there, if you change the e-mail address for an Outlook Address Book recipient, that change does not update any distribution lists in the PAB.
For that reason, you might prefer to use the Microsoft Outlook filter or grouping function for managing lists. In the Contacts folder that contains the members of your lists, create a category for each list, then assign that category to every contact that you want to be on a particular list. (You could also, of course, keep each list in its own Contacts folder, but if you have a lot of overlap between lists, updating addresses gets to be a chore.)
To send to the list, filter the Contacts folder to show only the names with the list's category, then select all those contacts and click New Message to Contact to create a message to the list. Or, group the contacts by category, then collapse the group you want to mail to, select it and click New Message to Contact.
This method works with all versions of Outlook but has several problems:
- If a contact has more than one e-mail address, you have no opportunity to select which one to use. All the recipient's addresses are added to the message; it's up to you to delete the duplicates.
- For recipients with both fax numbers and e-mail addresses, only the e-mail address is included.
- If a contact has only a fax number, you'll get a message saying no e-mail address could be found. Ignore it. Outlook will put the name of the contact in the To field, then resolve it to the fax address when you send the message.
- All the addresses appear in the To field, which adds considerably to the length of a message if it's a big list. You can, however, cut and paste all the recipients from the To field to the Bcc field.
Another approach is to copy all the items from one category into another folder and use that folder for a Word mail merge. Finally, some of the Mass Mail Tools support filtering by category.
Tools in the Spotlight
Use Distribution List Manager to create distribution lists from many emails all at once or from a single email with a lot of addresses (or anything in between). It works with To, CC, and From recipients when adding distribution list members from emails; add to existing lists or create a new list each time you add a member. See the current count of members of your distribution lists before you add the new member and receive a warning you when you approach or exceed the Outlook distribution list limit.
The Subscription Manager add-in (SUM) is designed to automatically add to or delete subscribers from Microsoft Outlook distribution lists based on e-mail message with the command SUM in its "Subject" field. Subscription Manager is the first mailing list management software for Microsoft Outlook. Part of the MAPILab Toolbox.
Adaxes is a solution for Active Directory management and automation that also allows to control and enhance Office 365 workflow, i.e. automate licenses assignment and revoking procedures, execute rule-based user updates, manage Exchange Online mailboxes, etc. - all that from a single web interface.
Sample Exchange Server event script to update Outlook 2000 distribution lists in a public folder with contacts meeting certain criteria. Designed to run on a schedule.
Custom Outlook form to send a single reply to the senders of all messages in a folder.
The MailChimp add-in for Outlook provides integration between MailChimp mailing lists and Outlook contacts. Export contacts to MailChimp, Import contacts from MailChimp, View MailChimp lists and campaign details from within Outlook.
Group Management Portal is a self-service web application that allows end-users within an organization to create and manage their own distribution lists in Exchange or security groups in Active Directory. Simply to deploy, easy to manage.
Build distribution lists based on queries against the Exchange 5.5 directory or Active Directory, either with or without Exchange Server, or from files, databases, or other external sources. Also provides tools for managing all types of DLs and groups and printing DL lists.
Run reports on distribution lists, users and more, pulling data from Exchange 5.5, Active Directory, or Exchange 2000/2003/2007. List all distribution lists and their members or just the number of members and present the report in XML, HTM, or Excel format. Free.
PeopleSearch include the ability to target Active Directory views to specific groups or users, construct user, computer, and group reports against Active Directory, localize your installation using multilanguage support. PeopleSearch uses a web browser to retrieve information stored in the directory, such as telephone number, location, title, and manager. Administrators can customize PeopleSearch to set up searches for any object or attribute in the Active Directory, configure how search results are displayed. Version 3.
PeopleUpdate provides a web-based search and update interface for Microsoft Active Directory environments. PeopleUpdate allows for search, export, and update functionality from a web-based interface. PeopleUpdate allows for drop-down lists and input masks for controlling data being updated. Version 3.
Bulk mail tool to send an individual message to multiple recipients. Addresses can come from any address list and may include distribution lists.
- To import a distribution list from the Personal Address Book
- Printing Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Address Books -- including distribution lists
- Exchange Server Mailing Lists
- Mail Tools
- Microsoft Outlook Categories
- Categories vs. multiple Contacts folders
- OL2000: How to Broadcast Mail Using Outlook (MSKB)
- HOWTO Work with Distribution Lists Using Collaboration Data Objects from Visual Basic (MSKB) -- Deals with DLs in Personal Address Book, not Outlook 2000 Contacts folder
- OL2000- How To Display Only the Distribution List Name in the "To" Box
- To require confirmation when sending to an Exchange distribution list
- Extracting Email Addresses from a DL